Interview with Link Building Expert Mike King

by Jon Cooper

If there’s any link builder that’s jumped onto the scene of late, it’s Mike King (also known as iPullrank). Whether it’s the buzz he’s stirred up with raps at conferences, or his take on persona based link building that’s reshaped the way we attack building links through our communities, Mike has stirred up conversation and introduced us to new, unconventional tactics that have helped us rethink the way we attack link building. Luckily, he was able to join me in this week’s interviews.

1. How did you get into SEO?

I got into SEO completely by accident. I was making music full-time for a number of years and I had gotten into a pretty graphic bicycle accident in 2006 that left me with a scar on my face. Being a musician I had no health insurance and so I had to get a job to pay my medical bills. The first place to hire me was an SEO agency, but I’ve been coding since I was 12 and building sites since 1995, well before the craft split into so many sub-crafts. It’s crazy to say how many jobs came out of what was once just called “Webmaster.”

2. Do you buy links? why or why not?

No, I have never purchased links. Just lucky to never have had to build links for a client who was so focused on the number of links. In any case that I have led a link building campaign I haven’t been under the “you only got us 40 links when you promised 100” pressure. However I have worked places where our team leads did have to buy links, and when the JCPenney fiasco hit, I ended up being the guy that was up until 5AM sifting through the backlink profile to figure out what needs to be cleaned up.

I wouldn’t buy links because there are far too many link building strategies and tactics that are effective and scalable. Anyone who is saying you HAVE to buy links to get results is just lazy or very informed.

3. Why are personas so important to link building?

Personas are extremely important across the board, not just for link building. Part of why a lot of big brands don’t understand the need to SEO is that there hasn’t been much effort to make it fit into the marketing mix. Every other portion of the marketing mix starts from an analysis of the audience whether its the design of the site, the media buy, the overall digital strategy, etc. but SEO as an industry has yet to embrace that.

Using personas will further help legitimize and glue SEO to other capabilities such as UX and measurement in the eyes of people that speak of SEO in terms of “Earned Media” rather than Inbound Marketing, but most importantly they help SEOs do their jobs better. In the case of link building, it makes it real easy to speak to identify and speak to your prospects. There are so many social media tools that help you find people based on their interests and then find out what they are specifically into.

Soon enough someone will pool the features of the many tools like Followerwonk, KnowEm, AnalyzeWords, Twtrland, PeerIndex, etc. into one tool and I will be able to put in a user or interest and find out exactly what they are into, which of my persona types they fall into, and how influential they are and be able to speak to those points in a way that is contextual and far more effective than sending a random form letter. As of now, it’s what you can do by going to all of those tools with the personas in mind, but social media + personas is basically the holy grail of marketing.

 4. What are your favorite link building tools, and why?

I like Ontolo a lot for prospecting. There’s some things I haven’t used yet but have some incredible features such as BuzzstreamiAcquire’s iRank and Link Research Tools. I’d also love to run a campaign that uses Zemanta; I haven’t but I suggested it to some guys I work with and it’s working very well for them. I’m using a lot of social listening tools to find people speaking about my topics and to understand my audience: ScoutLabs, SocialMention, Topsy. I’m mostly doing things by hand and using productivity tools like CoTweetIfttt for scheduling and automating tweets of posts, RapportiveKnowEm for finding where people are in social, Boomerang for following up on emails, FollowerWonkListoriousMentionMappScraper for Chrome for prospecting on Twitter. And good ole Excel to keep track of it all.

5. What’s the biggest mistake you see other link builders making?

The biggest mistake isn’t just one that link builders make it’s one that SEOs in general make which is not understanding both the topic, audience and/or the business objectives. We tend to just jump into things only understanding SEO and not taking into the account the bigger picture. These are typically problems of in-house or niche-based SEOs but the agency types that hop around. The first thing you need to know is what makes people interested in this topic and what type of content they are going to want to link to. Otherwise if you just go hopping through tools and not understanding who you’re talking to or why the business needs to connect with these people you shouldn’t be surprised when so few people respond to your link requests.

6. What’s the #1 tip you would give to those just getting started in link building?

Context is King. Link Building is just like talking to women. Sending a form letter that basically says “I have this thing that you should like, you should link to it” will continue to be as effective walking up to a woman and saying “hey I’m hot, let’s have sex.” Speak to people with context of their interests and you will be far more effective.

7. Where else can we find you on the Web?

The Best Practice blog, TwitterGoogle+ and I also write for SEOmoz, Distilled, Unbounce blogs from time to time.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 129 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper is a link builder based out of Gainesville, FL. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter @PointBlankSEO.

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  1. @rymcl says:

    Mike nails it with “SEOs not understanding the business objectives.” Too focused on the means, when they should be focused on the end.

  2. Alex Juel says:

    Awesome stuff. I would love to hear more about how Mike uses Followerwonk, KnowEm, AnalyzeWords, Twtrland and PeerIndex together. It would be great to see how he uses all of the link building tools from question #4 too. That would be a massive blog post wouldn’t it? 😀

    Great interview Jon!

  3. Keith says:

    #4 #4 #4…! Lot’s of great goodies there, thanks for posting this interview. Like so many of us who “fell into SEO”, many will enter but it’s those that really hustle that win.

    There are also some pretty cool Google site operators you can use to seek out good content proactively, keeping on top of trends and such.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks Keith! Agreed – Mike had some outstanding answers.

      Yep, Google itself can be a fantastic link building tool. Search operators = endless prospecting fun!

  4. Charles Sipe says:

    I’m really digging these interviews. Thanks a lot Jon for doing them and congrats on the scholarship. I’m hope you have a chance to interview Ian Lurie at some point.

  5. Manish says:

    Hey Jon thanks for sharing a great interview with Mike :D. This type of interviews with expert link builders always teaches some good things about how to perform link building campaign in a more effective way. I am totally agreed with mike that “Context is King” and it will be forever, so every link builder should highly concentrate on making quality and informative content.

  6. “Anyone who is saying you HAVE to buy links to get results is just lazy or very informed.”

    Do you mean that he said UNinformed?


    This is some good stuff — I’m going to check out those links to the SEO tools Mr. Mike King mentioned in particular. The man always has something useful to contribute. 🙂 Thanks for making this happen!

  7. Got to love the oft-used dating analogy in #6. But it’s so true. So many link builders wonder why they strike out so often, but are blind to the fact that they are approaching the conversation from a Self Centered, Me First perspective. Not going to establish a Link in a bar or online with that kind of attitude!

  8. Edgar says:

    He forgot to mention about blog commenting is also a good way for link building. But over all great interview.

  9. Gary Viray says:

    Mike King is some sort of a late bloomer going into the limelight but he has thought-provoking methods that impress me.

  10. Woj Kwasi says:

    Nice interview Jon 🙂 I had the pleasure of meeting Mike in Sydney recently & asked a whole bunch of questions about his music too, transitioned into SEO & some fun stuff. You may be interested in having a read: http://www.kwasistudios.com/mike-king-ipullrank-interview/

  11. Steve Floyd says:

    Great suggestions on the tools. I’ve overlooked Ontolo for a while, but will definitely dig into more now.

  12. polish-seo says:

    thank you for your opinion on buying links, It’s true that’s not necessary.

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    I have all theme relative websites pr 1 2 3 for link exchange. Please add my id for link exchange


Interview with Link Building Expert Mike King - Point Blank SEO